ta-TUM ta-TUM ta-TUM [Thursday, Feb. 08, 2007, 8:08 pm]
My thoughts have traveled much this semester, and have already come to rest on several things in the area of English - undoubtedly my major has something to do with that. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share, if only to give my thoughts some semblance of order.
The study of poetry in its various forms and eras will consume much of my academic time in the coming months. And now that I've been at this long enough to observe several professors' styles of teaching, I've come to wonder which I actually prefer. In the past I've had teachers who have been extremely open to different interpretations or "readings" of particular literary works. While they would often have their own particular views on the meaning of a piece, they seemed to stress that there is no real "right" way to interpret anything - that everyone's reading may be correct and has value in its own ways.
On some level I agree - not in the sense that all readings can be equally right, but that all can be partially wrong. We can use historical criticism, feminist theory, deconstruction, heck, even Marxist criticism - and yet it remains that no one can get into the author's head. If the only "right" interpretation of a piece comes from the person who wrote it, then no one else can reach that point.
However, in contrast to the "everybody's right" point of view, I have a professor this semester who seems a lot more adamant about the correct interpretations of certain pieces. At first it seemed presumptuous, but I realized that he does a good job of picking up on times when people try to use a "present" point of view when interpreting the meaning of poetry that is 300-400 years old, which doesn't work so well. Or does it? In order to be timeless, certain pieces just have to be able to resonate with audiences from different generations - and how else are we to look at them, other than through our own lenses?
I suppose that the best teaching technique would be somewhere between those. Not so "open-minded" that your brains fall out and nothing is really learned, but at the same time, not closed to every point of view but your own.
Regardless, I'm now feeling more comfortable with my understanding of meter in poetry. I've always known about meter, but I could never keep track of the names of each particular pattern. I don't have it down pat yet, but just by reading about it, I see it in a much larger scope. I've also realized that I've been writing in meter for a long time, whether or not I knew it. Somehow I just felt that it wasn't quite poetry without some sort of structure.
I know some people think that the metrical approach is outdated and constricting, but I read a very good analogy on that which gave me a great deal of appreciation for the use of structure. Some people see poetry as merely an avenue to express their emotions - that as long as they are free and expressive, structure doesn't matter - and that's fine.
But think of it in terms of playing an instrument. Each instrument, when played correctly, can be extremely expressive and each musician can have their own distinctive voice - but in order for that to come through, some sort of rule and structure has to be learned and used. You could blow away at a saxophone all day and feel like you're expressing your emotions - but if you're tone deaf then it might not do a whole lot for anyone else. I've read poetry like that, and certainly produced it as well. The better you become at working through a particular medium - the more you learn about structure, flow, and sound, the more effective you will become at getting your meaning across to the audience.
At least that's how I see it. We haven't covered free-verse yet. Perhaps when we do I'll be able to come up with some kind of merit for it ;-) Just kidding, I know it can be poetry too. I almost think it's harder to write in free verse though - at least for me. Somehow I've trained my ear to believe that what I'm writing isn't really poetry unless it has some kind of beat or rhyme. But that may change - I might broaden my horizons, which is most certainly one of the reasons I'm here.
I was going to go off on another tangent of higher education, but I suppose I should save it for another evening. I have about 200 million pieces of laundry to fold. Well, almost.
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009